Murray looked at the definition of seven across, Movie Award, and then looked back at the puzzle. Five letters. He silently spelled out O-s-c-a-r. It fit. Nevertheless, he used a pencil to write it in. He might have been one hundred percent sure of himself, but he was always cautious. He never knew when some crazy letter combination would trip him up, especially early in the crossword.
He leaned forward on the couch and reached for his coffee. It was a lazy Saturday morning. His wife was out running errands and he had some time to indulge in his pleasure, the weekly crossword puzzle. He leaned back on the couch, his legs propped up on the coffee table, and adjusted the folded newspaper against his left thigh. He searched out seven down when a movement caught his eye. A fly was walking along the upper left edge of the newspaper. He flicked his writing hand at the insect and it flew away.
Seven down was defined as furnace fuel, three letters. Since the O of Oscar was the starting letter, the answer seemed to be o-i-l, but he looked at the other definitions to make sure. Something moved in his peripheral vision. He glanced up to find the fly walking along the upper right edge of the paper. He stared for a moment before taking a half-hearted swipe at it. The fly dodged the gesture.
He leaned forward and took another sip of coffee. It was a wonderful morning to have the leisure of savoring his java. No work, no reason to rush off. He settled back and studied the definition for fourteen across. Nothing obvious came to mind, so he looked at the puzzle grid. He furrowed his brow. The box labeled fourteen was already filled in, but he hadn’t yet written anything. As he stared, the black mark in box fourteen moved. His eyes widened. It was the fly. Startled, he shook the paper. He propped the paper back up against his leg and examined the crossword. Box fourteen was now empty.
He was about to pencil in his answer when he stopped and looked around. His eyes roamed over the upper edge of the newspaper, up and down the left and right sides, and across the middle settling on the crossword. No fly. He half-smiled and raised his pencil. Something zipped in front of his face. He printed a capital I. He moved to the next box. Once again something whizzed by. He printed the letter L. He lifted his pencil from the puzzle with a satisfactory smile just as there was an audible plop on the page. The fly had landed in the middle of the crossword. He pursed his lips. This creature seemed to be determined to ruin his leisure activity. It had to go.
He put down the pencil and slowly brought his hand back to the paper. He cocked his middle finger against his thumb and came up behind the fly. The fly moved. He froze. The fly took few steps and became still. He waited a moment then flicked his finger. It caught the insect and launched it into the middle of the room. He grinned in triumph and took another sip of coffee.
The smartphone on the table rang. Murray picked it up with one hand, pushed a button and held the device to his ear. “Hello?” He glanced at the wall clock in the kitchen. “Eleven would be great. Don’t forget, I’m inviting you out for brunch today.” He looked at the crossword as he listened. “My treat. I want to try Alfred’s Café. I’ve never been there and somebody at work said their Eggs Benedict are to die for.” He glanced at fourteen across: five letters, starts with I and means ridiculous. “I’ll see you shortly. Luv ya.” He pressed the End button and furrowed his brow. What was a synonym for ridiculous? He put the phone down and picked up his pencil.
As he contemplated the crossword puzzle, he noticed the fly crawling around the upper corner of the grid. He slammed his hand down on the page. The sharp end of the pencil torn through the newspaper and jabbed into his thigh. He yelped and jerked his leg. There was a ripping sound.
He rubbed his leg as he examined his pants for a hole. He couldn’t see anything, but continued to massage his thigh. “Geez that hurt.” He took a sip of coffee then leaned back on the couch. He positioned the paper on his thigh and looked at the crossword. The newspaper had a gash in the middle of the page, which went right through the crossword. The puzzle was now in two pieces.
Murray’s eyes widened. He pursed his lips. “Why you little…” He twisted his head around seeking the object of his displeasure. There was a black dot on the wall. He set down the newspaper and pencil and picked up a magazine. Holding it with two hands, he rolled it up into a tube.
He stood up and cautiously approached the dot on the wall. At the last moment, he swung his arm towards the dot. The end of the magazine scrapped along the wall and hit a picture frame. The entire painting shifted on its hanging and the wire support slipped off its nail. As the frame fell to the floor, it turned and one end knocked into the arm of a straight back chair. The glass front shattered and the picture fell to the floor with a clatter. He glared at the shards of glass spread out on the floor.
A flush went up Murray’s face. He turned back to the room. His eyes darted back and forth looking for the insect. He couldn’t see it. He turned right then left when a movement caught his attention. The fly was walking on the ceiling over the entertainment center. Murray rushed over and jumped up. He flailed the magazine at the fly but couldn’t quite reach it.
He put a foot on the first shelf and tested his weight on it. He reached up to the top shelf for support and stepped up. Gripping the top to steady himself, he tilted his head up to look for the fly. It was still on the ceiling. He carefully brought his other arm up with the magazine as he tried to maintain his balance. He swung at the fly. It moved away but something felt odd. He jerked his head to one side and realized the bookcase was tipping. He jumped out of the way as the entertainment center toppled over with a loud crash. The television set smashed on the hardwood as books and knick-knacks scattered across the floor.
Murray threw up his arms and yelled, then rushed back and forth looking at mess from different angles. He glanced at the clock in the kitchen, stopped and stared at the fallen bookcase. He slapped his forehead and looked again at the clock. Something flew in front of his face. He looked at a stream of sunlight coming through a window in the kitchen and saw the fly flitting back and forth. His hand tightened on the magazine. He didn’t take his eyes off the insect.
He rushed into the kitchen and waved the rolled up magazine like a club. Up. Down. Left. Right. He thought he could see the insect evading his best efforts, so he continued to wave the magazine. He struck enough times to kill a hoard of locusts. The sound of his own panting buzzed in his ears. He bent over and put a hand on each knee as he tried to catch his breath. Was it done? Had he extinguished the bane of his existence?
Something flew through his field of vision. He stood up and glanced around. His eyes fell upon the fly as it landed on top of the refrigerator. He raised the magazine, strode three paces, and beat the top of the appliance. His foot slipped on the linoleum and he grabbed hold of the handle to the refrigerator. The magazine swept across the top of the frig and pushed several containers against the wall. He fell against the door and the entire refrigerator shook. A container marked Flour bounced against the wall and flipped over on its side. It slid back over the frig. The top of the container came off and flour poured over the edge onto his head. He sputtered and shut his eyes. He let go of the handle and brushed his hand over his face.
Murray blinked. He looked at his hand then looked down at his shirt. White powder covered him. He surveyed the room as he heard a key in the front door. A black dot was on the wall by the window. He took several stealthy steps towards his quarry as a voice from the front said, “Honey, I’m home.” He slammed the magazine into the wall. The end hit the end of a decorative shelf and levered it against a supporting brace turning it into a springboard. Several pottery pieces arced through the sunlight before breaking on the linoleum floor.
He looked at the end of the magazine. The oozing smashed insert stuck to the page. Murray turned to see his wife standing in the middle of the living room, wide-eyed, her jaw dropped. He half-spit, half-blew flour from his mouth and held up the magazine. “Look, sweetie. I killed a fly.”